MOVIE: ***1/2 (out of 5 stars)
DVD EXPERIENCE: * (out of 5 stars)
Jack Lemmon as JOHN GUSTAFSON
Walter Matthau as MAX GOLDMAN
Ann-Margret as ARIEL TRUAX
Burgess Meredith as GRANDPA GUSTAFSON
Daryl Hannah as MELANIE
Kevin Pollak as JACOB GOLDMAN
Ossie Davis as CHUCK
Buck Henry as SNYDER
WHAT IT’S ABOUT
John Gustafson (Jack Lemmon) and Max Goldman (Walter Matthau) are neighbors who have been at odds for years. As old men, they face a new challenge to come between them when the younger and pretty Ariel Truax (Ann-Margret) moves in next door. Their feud escalates as they vie for Ariel’s affection and reconcile other challenges in their lives.
WHAT I LIKED
This film was a surprise hit back when it was released in 1993, and for very good reason. It’s a damn funny movie, and somewhat shocking from an old-people-having-sex way, if you’re not expecting it.
But the real reason this movie works is the fantastic, decades-honed chemistry of Jack Lemmon and Walter Matthau. “Grumpy Old Men” served as a bit of a comeback for the duo, who were no stranger to each other. Even in their old age, they worked well together. Sure, they played somewhat stock character, in a way a retread of Felix and Oscar from “The Odd Couple,” but this shtick worked great in the 90s as it did in the 60s.
There’s a warm heart to “Grumpy Old Men” that helped the film transcend generations. Even through all its blue humor, it’s the kind of film that you can take your grandmother to and laugh out loud. Plus, in addition to Lemmon and Matthau’s excellent comic timing, the cast is populated with other great actors (many of whom are no longer with us) like Ossie Davis, Burgess Meredith and Buck Henry. (Don’t worry... I am aware that Buck Henry is still alive.)
And while this movie was technically coming off the heels of the geriatric sex comedy of “The Golden Girls,” “Grumpy Old Men” gave a more male-centric perspective that was fun and terrifying at the same time (terrifying, at least, to the under-40 crowd like myself).
WHAT I DIDN’T LIKE
There’s not a lot that bothered me with “Grumpy Old Men.” While it’s a pretty good movie, it’s not a perfect film. However, its warts are very forgivable and easy to deal with. My biggest problem is the character of Ariel is a bit of a flake and not necessarily a great catch. Sure, Ann-Margret still looked pretty good for being in her 50s during production, but she’s a little too out there to make her the kind of gal you’d want dating your widowed grandfather.
Additionally, the supporting cast includes some lesser performances from B-listers like Daryl Hannah and Kevin Pollak. Maybe if Pollak had done his role as Christopher Walken, things would have been awesome.
The Blu-ray has no special features, save the original theatrical trailer, which is nice to have but sorely lacking in the justification for the hi-def format.
WHO’S GOING TO LIKE THIS MOVIE
Those who like a light-hearted comedy that has sex jokes you can laugh at with your grandmother.